Arts & Food – Rituals Since 1851

La Triennale Di Milano
Salone Milan
9 April – 1 November 2015
Curated by Germano Celant

The exhibition Arts & Foods. Rituals since 1851, running from April 9 to November 1, 2015, is the first section of the EXPO 2015 to open, as well as the only thematic area of the Expo located in the center of Milan.


The exhibition is housed in the Triennale di Milano gallery spaces in via Alemagna, extending over 7,000 square meters internally and utilises external garden courtyard spaces as well.


For the occasion the Triennale has been restored and polished in anticipation of the many visitors who will flock to admire the works of famous artists all over the world, for a perfect Union between art, design and food.


The exhibition, inspired by the main theme of the EXPO Milan 2015, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, is aimed to investigate the manifold relationship between food, its rituals and different means of artistic expression over a long period – from 1851 ( the year of the first World Exposition in London and the starting point of modernity ) to present day.


‘La Triennale di Milano is the only Italian institution with a multidisciplinary approach to the visual and applied arts,’ said Claudio De Albertis, President of La Triennale. ‘It was thus only natural to accept the proposal of the Expo to put on the Arts & Foods exhibition as well as the eighth edition of the Triennale Design Museum, devoted to such an essential subject as that of the Expo.’


‘The goal of the exhibit is to bring the public closer to the complexity of history from 1851, the year of the first world Expo in London, to today’s Expo 2015, where the theme of food is explored through all possible languages: photography, cinema, literature, paintings, sculptures, designs, so that the public may understand the full picture of the intellectual work that evolves around food,’ exhibition curator Germano Celant said.


The project began in 2011 as a response to the thematic stimulus of Expo 2015, and it is part of the series of connections Germano Celant proposed from 1976 to the present on the encounter of art with other languages of visual and performative creativity.


After ‘Arte & Ambiente’, 1976, ‘Arte & Media’, 1977, ‘Arte & Moda’, 1996, ‘Arte & Architettura’, 2004, ‘Arte & Suono’, 2014, today we have reached ‘Arts & Foods’.


Germano developed a discourse in time, on practices concerning nutrition – both physical and intellectual, visual and olfactory, formal and aesthetic, informative and communicative, sensual and spiritual – with respect to the eating and preparation of real and concrete, iconic and virtual foods.


The entire exhibition bears witness to the expression of culinary and nutritional rituals through all languages – hence the plural nouns of the title ‘Arts & Foods’ – from architecture to art, design to cinema, photography to television, publishing to printing, advertising to music, fashion to industry.


Photographs show the external processes, markets, retaining, sales, as well as transport and industrial production. Cinema addresses all the phases of representation of the ritual of dining, from silent films to Hollywood blockbusters, as well as avant-garde experimentation. Architecture can function as a tool of popular communication, and as the solution of spaces, as in the case of wineries. Fashion is intertwined with everything, from Elsa Schiaparelli to Issey Miyake. And then there is the mass market focus on chefs, creating genuine superstars, with roots in the representations of the great art protagonists like Claude Monet.


It needed a team of 150 people to co-ordinate the exhibitions featuring over 2000 exhibits including 1000 design objects, 350 photographs, 120 film excerpts, 400 art works, 15 actual-size settings, including two works of architecture by Jean Prouvé and Maneval, dining rooms and bars, from Art Nouveau to Cubism, Futurism to Neoplasticism, Fluxus to the present.


Exploring the exhibition’s 15 rooms, is like taking a journey through time, with the visitor experience having an average duration of about 90 minutes.


The exhibition develops these themes through the reconstruction of 15 rooms and rooms dedicated to food places-from the dining room to the kitchen, from the bar to the spaces for picnics-where paintings, sculptures, objects, furniture, appliances, photographs, documents, film extracts, programs television, posters, clothing, games, disc covers and menus create a narrative impact, with more than 2,000 artworks.


Many foundations, museums and private collectors from around the world collaborated in this creation, which cost more than 6 million euros to stage, and will run for 6 months through the whole of Expo Milan.


Curated by Germano Celant and with the display design by Studio Italo Rota, Arts & Foods will use a multi-level, multi-sensorial approach to examine the developments and solutions adopted with regard to food.


It is a panoramic view of the way aesthetics and design are intertwined with the ritual of eating in an exhibition that is made up not just of artworks, but also of installations and aural, olfactory and cinematic experiences.


The whole show can be crossed by following different themes, found in the various historical sections – like the history of the dining table from the 1800s to the 1900s, with its objects, to the production of utensils, from knives to glasses, carafes to coffeepots to cookware, or the areas of travel food, outdoor picnics in Europe and Asia, eating on airplanes and in outer space, as well as the design of buildings devoted to the rituals and production of food.


‘It is in chronological order, with environments illustrating the spaces for eating together, in both the private and the public domain, from the dining room to the kitchen, and from cafés to eating on the move, in which furniture, objects, household appliances and works of art create a narrative of great visual and sensorial impact.’


All of this will be accompanied by the testimony of artists, writers, film makers, graphic designers, musicians, photographers, architects and designers who, from Impressionism and Divisionism to the historical avant-garde movements, and from Pop Art to the latest artistic research, have helped develop the vision and consumption of food.


And then there is the mass market focus on chefs, creating genuine superstars, with roots in the representations of the great art protagonists like Claude Monet.


To eliminate doubt about Celant’s curatorial preferences, there is the chilling neo-pop ” Lunches by McDonald’s” of Tom Sachs – the only work of Arts Foods presented in the Nave entrance of the Triennale.


The exhibition will provide a worldwide overview of the interaction between aesthetics and design in the rituals of eating, as an international event that will use different media to take visitors through time, from the historic to the contemporary, and through forms of expression, creativity and communication in all cultural areas.


The project encompasses moments and themes of the rupture and progress that the arts offer as a reading of the history and evolution of food and nutrition.


The presence of food, places for eating together and nourishment, have always been a feature of the history of art. In art, food takes on a ‘representative’ value, which in other words, represents something else beyond ourselves.


Set in a wide-ranging scenario it traces areas of continuous crossover and contact between the visual arts and various segments of the industrial arts and mass culture.


Examples range from the patented imports of new foods of the Western world, presented and shared through Universal Expositions, to the representation of products in the art of the 1960s, with the advent of mass advertising and packaging, arriving at the use of new technologies in both architecture and design, and in the art world.


The exhibition sets out to show the future of the documented periods and futuristic nature of discoveries related to food and eating together, and their effect on all the arts, exploring new opportunities for analysis and reflection.


Geramano Celant, curator of the exhibition, worked in harmony with the construction of Italo Rota and graphics support by Dutch designer Irma Boom, to realise a project dedicated to the ‘places of food’.


Under the architectural direction of Studio Italo Rota, visitors will have the opportunity to immerse themselves physically in a spectacular route where works of art, drawings and architectural models, films, objects, documents, books, menus, and album covers bring to life a narrative that set works and images in their own historical, sociological and anthropological context.


Italo Rota has created the exhibition display, which occupies galleries across all three floors of the 1930s building designed by Giovanni Muzio – including parts of the museum’s basement-level garden, where works on display include a giant inflatable Daddies’ ketchup bottle by British artist Paul McCarthy.


A suggestive showcase which exhibits many objects, talking about the relationship between food and art, a theme explored through:


1) The art of an impressive and diverse grouping eg  Cindy Sherman, Paul Gauguin, Georges Braque, Andres Serrano


2) the photography by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ugo Mulas,


3) pop-art by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Mimmo Rotella, Roy Lichtenstein and other artists,


4) enriched by the creations made by the fashion designer Ken Scott( though fashion is a delicate presence, just murmured into the exhibition, evidence of a culture eradicate in Italy which still considers fashion as a secondary discipline and gives the primacy to the visual arts),


5) designers include Joe Colombo, Bruno Munari, Theo Van Doesburg among many others.


6) the commercials by Armando Testa (bright creative who made the commercial saga of Carmensita for the Paulista coffee by Lavazza )


7) and impressed also on music, embodied in the cover albums of celebrated bands as Rolling Stones.


8) what’s also exciting is the exhibiting of works by some designers who are entirely under-the-radar or even anonymous.


Giuseppe Sala (ceo of Expo Milan 2015 ) and Claudio De Albertis ( president of Triennale ) agree on the ‘great desire to Italy’ that foreigners and visitors, boost and spurred by a broad interest event such as Expo 2015, stressing how important it is to take this opportunity to innovate and renew the beauty that belong to our country, all too often taken for granted.


Dario Franceschini ( Minister for Culture and Tourism ) added ‘the goal to conquer the visitors for them to remain in Italy to visit something outside the pre-established beautiful canonical’


A beautiful departure for Milan and an extraordinary opportunity for the Trienniale.


From 19th century French painters to Andy Warhol’s famous soup cans, ‘Arts & Foods — Rituals since 1851’ explores the human relationship with all things edible.


In one corner of the exhibition, visitors are stepping back into the 19th century. Fast forward 100 years and food is found in cans, a result of the post-war industrial boom of the 1950s and 60s.


Old-fashioned Coca-Cola dispensers and art installations critiquing mass consumption provide a colourful commentary on the globalisation of food and eating habits.


‘Nutrition is a hot topic, from how we produce food to how we consume it. The goal is to create fans of the exhibit and fans of the themes. It’s also a way of approaching our own life, which is so rich when it comes to food,’ Rota said.


‘The whole show is an ode to the experience of designing for food.’


From furniture to tools for conservation, glass utensils to appliances, convivial rituals to the market, the store and the supermarket, the otherness and the creativity of art give way to the functional purposes of crafts and trades.


Tools ranging from the artisanal to the technological, that have had a decisive influence on our relationship with nutrition.


Exhibition concept and layout


Arts & Foods is divided into 4 eras, housed in 3 different galleries within the Triennale

a)   1851 – 1900      Curva Gallery

       1901 – 1945      Curva Gallery

b)  1946 – 1975      Auelenti Gallery

c)  1976 – 2015      Cube Gallery


From 1851 to the post-war era


The first section, located at the ground floor inside the “Curva” gallery, is a journey from the mid-19th century first World Exposition in London up to the post-war era.


The Curva Gallery has been largely dedicated to cutlery and tableware – the walls and temporary partitions have been painted a dark grey and hung with paintings from the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Other objects are displayed in glass vitrines arranged around the space eg silverware, porcelain, cookbooks and multifunction knife sets.


Life-size vignettes have also been built to display fittings and accessories from a complete butcher’s shop,  kitchens, even an original bar in Florence from the 19th century.


It is based around a vast set of items related to food and nutrition: exceptional works of art, from the 19th century figurative painting to the early-20th century abstract movements; utensils, tableware, cooking books; applied artworks, reconstructions of ‘typical’ domestic and retail spaces, as well as architectures – including projects by Rietveld, Le Corbusier and Jean Prouvé.


In the first path pass through kitchens, dining rooms and bars where antique paintings by Monet, Gauguin, Braque, Balla, Boccioni, Morandi, De Chirico serve as back drops.


In the sense that Arts & Foods will expand to address literature, with quotations from authors and philosophers like Molière, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Jack Kerouac and John Cage, and will present cookbooks and menus from 1851 to the present, covering the creative impact of publishing.


Dozens and dozens of recipe books and brochures, also designed by artists like Edouard Manet, or written and illustrated by the likes of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Gio Ponti, will form an ideal library on the subject of food and dining.


The first impression is that the revolutionary and priceless painting of Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism and Surrealism is to furnish the kitchens of our grandmothers.


With Celant’s curation, all objects of view, whether or not art, return to their functionality: is the guiding principle of design, art.


The second part of ‘Arts & Foods’, housed in the ‘Aulenti’ Gallery, depicts the period from 1946 to 1975.


This section presents all the hopes and contradictions of a period that embodied an ideal of optimism and innovation, but eventually came to criticize the degeneration of that ideal.


On the one hand, in the years immediately following the end of the World War II, a confident belief in modernity introduced new materials for furniture, utensils and food containers, aimed to a domestic space which is more and more free from the conventions of the past; furthermore new typologies of space and new objects were created to support habits and trends related to the mass consumption of food.


On the other, many begin to criticise this social model, and especially its degeneration into consumerism; like Warhol through his ‘serialised’ food icons, the hippie culture and many desecrating filmmakers, such as Antonioni, Bunuel and Kubrick, to name a few.


Until the 1950s the image of food is a stimulus to represent the everyday landscape, like meals, the table, the dining room, the cafe and the picnic, and then this representation gives way to the presentation of the object itself.


Towards one end of this gallery is the Pavilion Le Jours Meilleurs by Jean Prouvé, a single-storey prefabricated house that can be built using simple tools in just seven hours, with a central green steel cylinder that houses the kitchen and bathroom and holds up the roof.


It was designed in 1956 as a proposal for re-housing French citizens that had been displaced during the war.


From the 1960s, with the advent of Pop Art in the United States, from Claes Oldenburg to Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol to Tom Wesselmann, the motif of food becomes sculpture and painting.


Taking images from billboards or advertising, or the illustrations of newspapers and magazines, these artists directly evoke the hot dog or the ice cream cone, the Coca-Cola bottle, the Campbells soup can, putting them on the surface of the canvas or making them as three dimensional objects.


Another gallery on the ground floor representing ‘pop art’ is accessed through swing doors and features yellow walls, partitions and surfaces.


Here, curator Germano Celant has managed to wrangle top works by major artists of the likes of Andy Warhol.


With Campbell’s Soup by Warhol, we witness the triumph of American Pop Art, packaging, products of mass consumption and commercials.


A sense of nostalgia permeates the show, as visitors will find pieces and installations that trigger personal memories—whether it’s the old packaging from a favourite pasta, plates from a now non-existent airline, or an advertising campaign from childhood.


From 1976 to 2015


The present-time section of the exhibition is located within the “Cube” gallery on the first floor; here, works by contemporary artists express the complexity of what food represent these days.


Visions depicting a, often crude, reality where the “the food question” involves politics, consumerism, over-production and globalisation of food, only in theory available everywhere, are placed alongside critical proposals envisaging a more strict relationship between food and local communities.


The third and final route is that of the contemporary scene with big, spectacular installations and where the artists gathered at the end of the 70 ‘s bu Celant are distinguished by their natural materials: bread for Penone, Merz and Fischer, and ground coffee to Kounellis invading reassuring exhibition and sensual fragrance.


‘In this room we go from the smell of coffee to that of chocolate and bread. These are the materials of the artwork, so the exhibit involves not just sight, but all five senses,’ said Italo Rota, exhibition architect.


‘And this helps visitors memorise complex issues that the exhibit illustrates, anorexia, bulimia, famine, and also the great pleasure of a colorful cake, which catches the eye first.’

The exhibition ends with Jeff Koons and Paul McCarthy.


In our society of the spectacle, therefore, scale changes, art takes monumental to get noticed and overwhelm us but also because it costs more and make more profits as she realized Damien Hirst who is not in the curation selection of Calent.


On the upper floor, the gallery space set aside for the exhibition has been painted white and includes large-scale works like Igloo del Pain (an igloo made from bread) by Italian artist Mario Merz, and architect Frank Gehry’s The GFT Fish.


Clips of food scenes from international films are projected onto the upper part of the wall of one room, while photographs and art works are arranged at eye level.


Among the pieces are Kevin Carter’s 1993 images from the famine in Ethiopia.


About Germano Celant


Germano Celant, historian, art critic and theorist has managed hundreds of exhibitions around the world and published over a hundred books and catalogs.


Director of the Fondazione Prada in Milan since 1995, Celant is also curator of the Fondazione Aldo Rossi in Milan, curator of the Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova in Venice.


He was Senior Curator of the Contemporary Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York from 1989 to 2008; Artistic Director of the first Florence Biennale in 1996; Director of the 47th Venice Biennale in 1997; Artistic Supervisor of Genova 2004 – European Capital of Culture, as well as many other exhibitions.


As a long-standing contributing editor of Artforum and Interview, Celant regularly collaborates with L’Espresso and Interni.


In 1987, he was awarded the Frank Jewett Mather Award, the highest recognition in America made to art critics, and in 2013 was awarded The Agnes Gund Curatorial Award by Independent Curators International.


About La Triennale


La Triennale di Milano, established in Monza in 1923 as the Biennial of decorative arts since 1933 and housed in the Palazzo dell’Arte in Milan, was designed by Giovanni Muzio and built between the autumn of 1931 and the spring of 1933.


Conceived by the designer to be an extremely flexible container, it is a multi-purpose organization that was highly innovative for the era in which it was designed.


Born as a panorama of modern decorative and industrial arts, with the intention of stimulating relations between industry, manufacturing sectors and applied arts, La Triennale di Milano soon proved to be the mirror of Italy’s artistic and architectural culture and a major sites for reflecting on emerging trends.


La Triennale di Milano is Italy’s institution for architecture, decorative and visual arts, design, fashion and audiovisual production.


It is also a center of cultural production that hosts conferences, film festivals, exhibitions and roadshows.


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